Prayer of Presence:
Here I am as fully in your presence as I am able to be,
Offering my fears, my needs, my hopes, my love, and my life.
For I am yours and belong to no other.
40 Days of with Wesley by Rueben P. Job, p. 29
Scripture: Today’s reading is from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
The Apostle Paul points out the limits of human wisdom to know God through religious experience and philosophical systems. Both approaches are human ways to attain knowledge of God. For Paul, God self-reveals and offers salvation to humanity through the foolishness of the cross. Christ crucified on a cross as the means of God’s chosen way of self-revelation and salvation was — and still is to many — offensive to human sensibilities and the intellect.
Crucifixion was used as a capital punishment by the Romans. It served as a deterrent for crime, and primarily as a deterrent for people engaged in or thinking about subverting Roman imperialism. The crucified were shamed, humiliated, dehumanized, and tortured before, during, and after death. God in Christ crucified as the way of self-revelation and salvation was non-sensical to the learned. And yet, the early church was comprised mainly of disreputable, outcast, poor, under-educated, and marginalized people living a crucified existence. It was this group of shamed, despised, weak, and socially crucified people that were some of the first in the city of Corinth to identify with the suffering Christ and the first ones to accept Him as their Lord and put their whole trust in His saving grace. In Paul’s view, it is the shamed, the despised, and socially weak that are the wise ones.
Paul makes note of this when he writes:
“Consider your own call, brothers and sisters; not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one may boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption so that, as it is written, “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-30)
As United Methodists, we highly value reason, knowledge, and learning. John Wesley graduated from Oxford University. He knew that education had enormous power to improve the quality of life and he sought to provide education to those who could not afford it – a missional practice we continue to this day. But he also knew that reason and learning by itself could never forgive sins, make us right with God by faith, move us toward holiness of life, perfection in love, or assure us with the hope of eternal life (Sermon 1: Salvation by Faith). We depend on God for those rich blessings whose wisdom guides us deeper into spiritual and eternal truths than what we can learn through reason alone.
Questions for Reflection:
Prayer Focus: For the grace and humility to not overestimate our reasoning powers and to depend more entirely on God’s wisdom as the means of knowing the more spiritually profound things of God.
O God, our bread, our milk, and our honey;
in the resurrection of your Son, you have brought us to your table.
Feed us with your plenty, and enlarge our table for all the hungry,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Alleluia.